How to prevent Identity Theft
- Unless you initiated the contact with a trusted party, never provide personal financial information over the phone or internet, including your Social Security number, account numbers or passwords.
- Never click on links within an e-mail you believe to be fraudulent. Such emails may contain a virus that can contaminate your computer.
- Do not be intimidated by an e-mail or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial information.
- Order a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies every year and make sure all the information is correct – especially your name, address, and Social Security number. Look for indications of fraud, such as unauthorized applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries and defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause. If you live in Massachusetts, you are entitled to one free credit report annually.
- Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once each year to make sure that no one else is using your Social Security number for employment.
- If you fall victim to an identity theft attack, act immediately to protect yourself. Alert your financial institutions, place fraud alerts on your credit files and monitor your credit files and account statements closely.
What is “Phishing?”
Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses email “spam” or pop-up messages to deceive you into disclosing your credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information.
How does it happen?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you deal with – for example, your Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message usually says that you need to “update” or “validate” your account information. It might threaten some dire consequence if you don’t respond. The message directs you to a web site that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site, but it isn’t. The purpose of the bogus site is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes using your name and/or other personal information.
What can I do to prevent being a victim of phishing?
The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, suggests these tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Southbridge Savings Bank does not ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the Southbridge Savings Bank by calling 800.939.9103, or open a new Internet browser session and type in www.southbridgesavingsbank.com.
- Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organization’s Web site, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL for a website that begins “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
- Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome files. Look for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses as well as older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and that updates automatically.
- A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources. It’s especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Finally, your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Report suspicious activity to the FTC. If you get spam that is phishing for information, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Web site at www.consumer.gov/section/scams-and-identity-theft to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from ID theft. Visit www.ftc.gov/spam to learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam.